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Hemlock Grove (2013)

Hemlock Grove

Rating: ★½☆☆☆ 

Three episodes in, so I tried. I really did.

Over those three episodes, the Netflix original series Hemlock Grove got off to an extremely languid start and just never went anywhere. At all. It half-heartedly dropped plot points that the series utterly failed to develop or inspire the viewer to care about, while simultaneously marching out a bunch of characters that were uninteresting, unlikable, seemingly unimportant, and poorly acted. Relationships were implied but never properly developed, nor do they seem to really be leading to anything.

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1 Comment

  • Justin Garrett Blum says:

    I didn’t want to spoil this review by including any non-required information, so I’ve left it purposefully brief–those four words are, basically, all that you need to know.

    For the record, however, I will state that Tomb Raider is easily one of the best games that I have ever played. It is perfectly intuitive on a PC with keyboard and mouse, it ran at 40 FPS on my 5 year-old POS and looked amazing, and finally, everybody involved with the game has every right to be extremely proud of the final product.

    Brilliant work of entertainment.

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Tomb Raider (2013)

Tomb Raider (2013)

Rating: ★★★★★ 

Off. The. Fucking. Chain.

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4 Comments

  • fuwalda says:

    I watched maybe the first ten minutes of the first episode of this show and that was as long as it took me to shut it off. It’s just not for me. Everybody says it’s great and I’m sure it is, I just hated the main character immediately and had no interest in watching any stories revolved around him.

    That’s all I have to say.

    • Justin Garrett Blum says:

      I didn’t love it immediately. Actually, I’ve never loved it, but the pace did pick up toward the end of the first season. I wasn’t sold on it at all after one episode. Or two. Or three. It’s not a show I’d say must be watched.

      Honestly, I’ve never felt that Kevin Spacey is too good of an actor. Maybe with a different lead I’d feel more compelled to go back.

      Though it still wouldn’t exonerate the series from a stupid first episode in the second season.

  • fuwalda says:

    I think I watched Mad Men for 30 minutes before I turned it off.

  • fuwalda says:

    I’ve seen every episode of Family Matters, however, if that accounts for anything.

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The One Where Frank Underwood Throws [spoiler] in Front of the [spoiler]

Frank UnderwoodIf you read beyond this point without having watched House of Cards season one, or the first couple of episodes of season two, then you accept the consequences of your actions–because I’m going to spoil the hell out of them.

It has been a couple of weeks since I watched the episode referenced in the article title, and I am still attempting to decide whether or not this is House of Cards’s moment of shark-jumping. It wasn’t the reason that I took a break from the series, but it may be the reason that I haven’t felt strongly drawn back to it yet, despite the fact that I had found the building tension at the end of the first season to be fairly riveting. (more…)

8 Comments

  • fuwalda says:

    If you’ll remember, I hated District 9. I skipped this one because I disliked the director’s previous film, and because it didn’t look very good. District 9, at least, had an interesting premise, at least in regards to constructing an intriguing trailer (the actual film was trite and stupid), while this film’s trailer just made me think, “I’ve already seen this.”

    I was *kind* of interested if only because I really like Matt Damon. He’s a fantastic actor and he has one of the best track records for picking good scripts of any actor in recent memory, but… yeah… it just looked bad.

    • Justin Garrett Blum says:

      I thought I remembered somebody hating District 9.

      Matt Damon is wasted here. I’m honestly not sure what sort of person his character is meant to be. He didn’t seem to know either.

      This film probably called for more of a Vin Diesel type.

  • fuwalda says:

    I remember when this movie first came out, I read a story (on TMZ or US weekly or some other shitty tabloid site) that Eminem was originally attached to star but he dropped out because of other commitments or something. It was intended to be his return to acting after 8 Mile. That would’ve been interesting. I actually thought he did a pretty impressive job in 8 Mile. I’m not saying he would’ve saved the movie, just that he was good in 8 Mile so maybe he’d be good in other things.

    As for District 9, it’s one of those movies where (and I’m totally talking out of my ass here) a smart person probably came up with a really interesting premise, and then a really bad writer was given the assignment to turn it into a script. Neil What’s his name isn’t a bad director, at least in terms of action, so it’s entertaining, especially since that guy who was also in the A-Team movie is a great actor, but it was just so fucking dumb. You should watch it just to see if you agree with me. A lot of people love it.

    Then again, District 9 is one of those movies that is beloved by people who don’t otherwise care about sci-fi, if you know what I mean. If you’ve ever read a novel by, say, Robert Heinlein, you’ve already seen this story done a thousand times better.

    • Justin Garrett Blum says:

      Eminem. I could see that. It wouldn’t have made the movie any less shitty, but yeah–he’d have been better suited to it, maybe.

      I do want to see District 9 just to see it. The guy who played Howling Mad Murdoch was also in Elysium. Entertaining, but a performance hampered by the many character problems running throughout the film. Still…probably the best thing about the movie.

  • fuwalda says:

    Funny little thought that only you will appreciate (which is good because only you will read this far… except for maybe Josh in a few months after he remembers his brother has a blog and it’s easier to comment on his posts than call and say he loves you): Remember back in college how we once had a facetious conversation before the premier of 8 Mile were we said that Eminem shouldn’t make his acting debut as a raper, since that’s boring and predictable, but as Hari Seldon in an adaptation of Isaac Asimov’s Foundation? Remember that? That’s still funny.

  • fuwalda says:

    Rapper, not raper. Oops.

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Elysium (2013)

Elysium Movie Poster

Rating: ★½☆☆☆ 

There is good science fiction, and there is bad science fiction. Elysium is the bad kind. Don’t bother.

Elysium is the sort of film that just doesn’t quite sit right with you while you’re watching it–for all the obvious reasons when in the moment–and then later on, as you’ve taken the time to properly digest it, you come to realize that there isn’t really a shred of story that holds together on any level. It’s not necessarily offensive viewing, but the entire concept is broken on so many layers that it’s impossible to be kind about it in any kind of objective analysis.

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2 Comments

  • fuwalda says:

    I think you liked this more than I did. I thought it was ok for what it was, but having watched it, I’ll never watch it again. In fact, I barely even remember it.

    But I love Kurban. One of my favorite actors.

    • Justin Garrett Blum says:

      Yeah, I liked it. I actually wouldn’t mind watching it again. Probably not immediately, however.

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Dredd (2012)

Dredd (2012)

Rating: ★★★½☆ 

About three minutes into 2012′s Dredd, starring Karl Urban, my wife said to me, “This is like a video game.” This turned out to be a fairly apt assessment, though I think my wife only half realized how correct she was, owing to the fact that she isn’t particularly a fan of video games and she fell asleep roughly 30 minutes into this movie. So yeah…Dredd is that kind of film.

This is essentially a beat-em-up game in cinematic clothing. There are no real surprises, so you can go fix yourself a sandwich in the middle of the film, come back 10 minutes later, and the same sorts of things will be happening. The plot doesn’t evolve. Judge Dredd’s goal to ascend to the top of the megablock tower is a constant. We know who the villain is from the start, we know why, and we know Judge Dredd will eventually kill her, not before killing an army of her goons. Dredd doesn’t follow any sort of conventional three act narrative structure. It’s extremely linear. You get the idea.

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The Hunt (2012)

the-hunt

Rating: ☆☆☆☆☆ 

(unrated)

Clarification: the rating above indicates only that I did something while watching The Hunt that I almost never do while watching even the most tedious films: I paused it, ranted about it to my wife, listened to her rant to me about the same exact thing, and then we jointly agreed to turn it off and watch something else. So I’m not qualified to provide a rating for The Hunt, since I only experienced the first half hour.

I can, however, give a recommendation I think. But I’m going to make you read my subjective synopsis before I supply a recommendation. The Hunt was nominated for the Best Foreign Film Academy Award and currently claims an 8.3 on the Internet Movie Database, so I think I owe an explanation for why my wife and I so fervently resisted continuing past the first act. 

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4 Comments

  • fuwalda says:

    I felt similarly to you going in to this film. In fact, I actually put off seeing it in the theater because I wanted another Chronicles movie, not another Pitch Black movie. But after time had settled, I decided I just wanted any Riddick movie… and this was a Riddick movie. That alone makes it worth watching, but the fact that it’s actually a pretty good movie made it a must see, in my opinion.

    Basically, I think I went in expecting not to like it all that much, and was pleasantly surprised when I actually loved it. But you were maybe unfairly prejudiced by my perhaps too glowing review so you expected too much. Or maybe you’re just a dick. You should rename this blog “Chronicles of The Dick.”

    • Justin Garrett Blum says:

      I should. I’m a dick. Even as I was writing this, I was thinking, “Why am I shitting on this? I enjoyed it.”

  • fuwalda says:

    More thoughts: I actually thought that considering how Chronicles flopped, this film still took chances and got really weird. The entire first thirty minutes or so where Riddick was just wondering around alone on the planet, eating fishheads and killing scorpion monsters was unlike anything you see in most mainstream Hollywood films. This movie was just weird.

    • Justin Garrett Blum says:

      Yeah, that’s a good and fair point. I really did think the first 30 minutes or so were pretty neat, and maybe I didn’t express that enough. The creature design for the scorpion aliens was effectively very creepy, and the relationship between Riddick and his dingo dango worked. If the entire movie had been that neat, I’d have probably given Riddick a much better rating.

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Riddick (2013)

Riddick (2013)

Rating: ★★★☆☆ 

So I guess I’m going to have to be that guy who laments for the Chronicles of Riddick series that never was. Without going into extensive detail, I was a tremendous fan of the second (live action) Riddick film (i.e., The Chronicles of Riddick), because flaws notwithstanding (e.g., it tilted toward operatic), it was a tale built upon ideas. Perhaps, in a way, too many ideas, but I admired it on many levels for its storytelling and worldbuilding, and ultimately, for setting up a fascinating arc for its protagonist–I looked forward to watching it play out.

As a star vehicle for Vin Diesel, it fit like a glove, so understandably, it felt like a real labor of love for Diesel, as well as director/writer David Twohy. Almost as if they were so amazed that somebody had greenlighted a science fiction epic as a follow-up to the straightforward Pitch Black, they got kinda giddy about it, resulting in a film that included all but the kitchen sink. I can understand why some critics may have thought it all seemed overwrought, but from my perspective, I loved the filmmakers for what they tried to pull off, and I will forever wish The Chronicles of Riddick had been the hit it deserved to be.

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2 Comments

  • fuwalda says:

    Is this the kind of thing I can watch even though it was cancelled? I don’t want to watch some story that goes unresolved.

  • Justin Garrett Blum says:

    No, it wasn’t cancelled on FOX, so it was actually allowed to resolve the major storyline. To be sure, some of the best stories in the season are in the winding down. The writers had found a pretty good formula in the end, though it’s also the point where things come completely off the hinges for Isaacs’s character, and improbabilities mount to the point that it does sort of leave you with a lot of questions. But intentionally, and in a good way (mostly).

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Awake (2012)

awake_nbc1[1]

Rating: ★★★★★ 

Awake is the sort of series about which I could probably spend way more time talking than I really want to, so I will endeavor to confine this to essentials. Ultimately, my recommendation is going to be as follows: watch the pilot (currently available on Netflix’s streaming service) and decide for yourself. For my part, I won’t mince words here: Awake was a brilliant, I think.

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5 Comments

  • fuwalda says:

    Good review, but I’ll never watch this movie because it sounds boring.

    • Justin Garrett Blum says:

      I don’t blame you, because I believe you would be bored watching it. I was a little bored watching it, to be honest.

    • Justin Garrett Blum says:

      It’s funny, because even as I started writing this (and originally, I was only going to write about three sentences), I was thinking, “Why am I writing this? The two or three people who might even possibly read this would never even think about watching it.” ;)

  • fuwalda says:

    Don’t blame yourself because I’m an idiot.

    • Justin Garrett Blum says:

      ha! That’s not what I meant. I just mean it’s not the sort of movie somebody who isn’t super-interested in the financial crisis is going to go out of his or her way to watch, even if it is available streaming on Netflix.

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Margin Call (2011)

medium_Margin_Call[1]

Rating: ★★★½☆ 

Margin Call is a film that features an ensemble cast of talented actors digging in to a script seemingly developed with the intent to provide an ensemble cast of talented actors something to dig into. It isn’t quite the Glengarry Glen Ross of high finance films–it isn’t nearly as over-the-top, nor is it nearly as entertaining–though there’s the sense, perhaps, that the screenwriter, J.C. Chandor, probably watched Glengarry Glen Ross at some point in the planning stages. Make of that what you will.

As an indictment of the investment banking system that over-leveraged itself to the brink of, or even fully to, destruction, ushering the United States (and by extension, basically, the world) into the financial crisis of 2008, it’s pretty damning. Only…if you aren’t already up-to-speed on the finer details of precisely what the hell happened, don’t expect Margin Call to answer that question for you. (more…)

6 Comments

  • fuwalda says:

    I’m sure this game is awesome, but I never finished the first game. The first game was also awesome, but I stopped playing midway though because I got a little bored.

    • Justin Garrett Blum says:

      You know, it’s funny. I did the same thing with the first game. It wasn’t boredom, really, but I just got to this point about midway where all the enemies started carrying weapons, and I kept messing up trying to complete some objective, and I couldn’t be bothered to continue.

      I never had that problem with Arkham City. I don’t think it was easier–I just think the controls are a lot better on a PC, so I never felt like I was battling with the game mechanics.

      Anyway, I loved it. I’m waiting to see Arkham Asylum go on sale on Steam so I can pick that one up and finally do a full play-through.

  • fuwalda says:

    Arkham City is currently five dollars on Xbox Live. I’m downloading it now. I’ll check in later on.

  • fuwalda says:

    I got sick of this game even quicker than I did the other one. Then again, it’s basically the same game, just in a slightly different environment. Technically speaking, they’re amazing games with some of best graphics I’ve ever seen, excellent voice acting, and well written stories… but I dunno. As games, they both bored the shit out of me for two reasons:

    Combat stinks. It’s just button mashing. I just tap the x button and wag the stick around until everybody is dead. That’s it. It’s well animated so it’s fun to watch, but it’s so boring.

    Detective Mode stinks. I do applaud them for making an attempt to show that Batman is also a detective, but detective mode is this antithesis of actual detecting. It literally has captions pop up that tell you exactly what to do, what item to equip, where to use them, etc. How is this being a detective? It’s not a puzzle if the game presents the solution alongside the problem. Also, since you have to use detective mode in order to make it through the game, it’s easiest to just keep it on all the time, which makes the graphics look like shit.

    So… yeah, I dunno. These games just aren’t for me. I want to make it through because it is a great Batman story, I just wish the game mechanics were more fun.Then again, everybody else loves these games so maybe I’m just missing something.

    • Justin Garrett Blum says:

      I disagree with everything you just said. ;)

      I get that the combat isn’t…I dunno…Tekken, but for a beat-em-up, it’s pretty damn good. If all you’re doing is button mashing, you’re either playing the game on too easy a setting or you never got past the first few fights or never leveled your character to unlock new combat abilities. Using the counters is absolutely essential, as are the quick attack abilities, advanced moves like the beatdown, redirecting attacks, etc.

      I suppose I don’t disagree entirely about detective mode–sometimes I think they could have made me work a little harder to discover some things–but overall, I like the depth it adds to the gameplay. I didn’t really keep it on all the time either. You learn when you need it and when you don’t. A lot of the time detective mode is just about teaching you how to notice things, so once you learn that skill, it’s not essential to keep it turned on.

      I think it’s just not for you, but I do wonder if maybe you didn’t play it long enough to discover the real challenge of it. Personally, I totally get the reason the game has a 94 meta critic rating. As I said, I played this obsessively right up to the end and beyond. I almost never do that.

  • fuwalda says:

    It’s true I only played this for a few days, but what I saw wasn’t an improvement of the previous game, that I played for a few weeks. I just don’t find it fun.

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Batman: Arkham City (PC)

video-game-noir-batman-arkham-city-catwoman-via-digitaltrends[1]

Rating: ★★★★★ 

Batman: Arkham City has restored my faith in adventure game ports from the console to the PC. The game plays so intuitively and fluidly that I’m inclined to believe it’s actually quite a bit better suited to playing with a keyboard and mouse than it would be with a game controller. While Batman: Arkham City is a spectacularly entertaining game on its own merits, the sheer playability of the PC version puts it over the top for me.

Just a quick note, I played the Game of the Year Edition, which in addition to the base game, includes a Harley Quinn’s Revenge expansion, a Nightwing bonus pack for the challenge modes (non-campaign), and other sundries. If one were considering purchasing the game, I would suggest this is the version you would want (especially if you can pick it up for $7.50 on Steam, as I did).

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